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The Herald

January 7, 2004

Foulkes wants bigger role for PR at Holyrood
Michael Settle, Chief Political Correspondent
January 07 2004
THE system for electing most MSPs using first-past-the-post should be scrapped and replaced with proportional representation, an ex-minister at Westminster said yesterday.

George Foulkes, formerly deputy secretary of state for Scotland, put forward the radical proposal as part of his amendment to the new Scottish Parliament Constituencies Bill, which seeks to retain 129 MSPs and is due to be debated in the Commons soon.

For some MPs, Mr Foulkes included, a major problem lies in the fact that there will be different constituency boundaries for Westminster and Holyrood. This is because the number of MPs is being cut from 72 to 59 and new boundaries are being created. The MSPs will stick to the old ones. Mr Foulkes believes this will lead to confusion among voters and is proposing an "elegant solution" whereby two MSPs are elected using the new boundaries, giving 118 MSPs, plus 11 more elected for Scotland as a whole retaining 129 members.

However, the MP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley also wants to eliminate the problems he sees between constituency MSPs and list MSPs; his solution is to have them all elected by PR with the system chosen by the Electoral Commission.

"We have a serious problem of non-common boundaries looming, coupled with the continuing clash between constituency and list MSPs," noted Mr Foulkes. He said his suggestion for two MSPs per constituency would roughly retain the balance between parties in Scotland and, with only 11 list MSPs, "rivalries would be reduced to a minimum".

However, the SNP dismissed Mr Foulkes's amendment, insisting it should not be for MPs to "fiddle with Scotland's democracy" and "lay down the law to the Scottish Parliament".


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